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HindustanTimes Tue,16 Sep 2014

Sarabjit's family crosses into Pakistan

PTI  Islamabad, April 23, 2008
First Published: 13:52 IST(23/4/2008) | Last Updated: 18:31 IST(23/4/2008)

The family members of Sarabjit Singh entered Pakistan on Wednesday to meet him and pinned their hopes on President Pervez Musharraf to release the Indian national on death row for the last 17 years.

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Shortly after crossing the Wagah border this afternoon , Sarabjit's wife Sukhpreet Kaur and his daughters Swapandeep and Poonam insisted he was innocent and had been wrongly convicted and given death sentence for the four bomb attacks in 1990 that killed 14 people in Punjab province.

Sarabjit's family, his sister Dalbir Kaur and her husband Baldev Singh have been given seven-day visas to visit Nankana Sahib and Lahore, where Sarabjit is being held on death row at Kot Lakhpat jail in Lahore.

Poonam, who was only 23-days-old when her father crossed the border, said: "I want to hear my father uttering my name, and I want to embrace him. I want to know what a father's love feels like.

"We urge everyone to help us free our father. We have come to appeal to (President Pervez) Musharraf to help us by freeing our father as he is innocent. We believe that he will certainly help us," Poonam said.

Swapandeep, who was two-and-half-years old when her father strayed into Pakistan, said: "We have come with the hope that the improved relations between India and Pakistan will have an impact on my father's case and he will soon be released.

The family is carrying letters written by various persons to Musharraf seeking clemency for Sarabjit as well as letters written to Sarabjit by his friends. Sarabjit's kin have also sought permission to meet Musharraf and other Pakistani leaders to take up his case, but it was not immediately known if such meetings will take place as their visas do not allow them to travel to Islamabad.

The Pakistan government claims Sarabjit is Manjit Singh, who carried out the attacks. Sarabjit's family denies he is a spy as claimed by Pakistan and insists he accidentally strayed into Pakistani territory.

Sukhpreet told reporters at Wagah, "My husband is not Manjit Singh. He is Sarabjit Singh, an ordinary farmer who mistakenly crossed the border while he was drunk. He could never do the things for which the cases were filed against him.

"I am convinced everybody will support me in my efforts to get my husband freed. I will be seeing him after 18 years. I never imagined we would be separated for so long and my children would not see him for such a long time," she said.

Refuting the charges against her father, she said: "He is an ordinary farmer who mistakenly crossed the frontier. At that time, the border was not fenced. He has spent 18 years in jail, more than a life imprisonment term in Pakistan, and he should be released.

Swapandeep said he was both happy and sad on being allowed to travel to Pakistan to meet her father. "I never thought we would meet him in such circumstances. Every year, we pray that he can return to celebrate Holi and Diwali with us," she said.

Poonam said: "We have evidence that he is Sarabjit Singh, and not the Manjit Singh who carried out the bomb blasts. An innocent man who has spent 18 years in jail should be released. Not just my father, but all Pakistani prisoners in Indian jails should also be released."


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